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Essential Worker Vaccinations Start Monday in Richmond Region

Local officials
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney (top left), RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras (top right) and Dr. Melissa Viray (bottom) spoke to reporters Wednesday about the next phase of vaccinations. (Source: Screenshot of virtual briefing) 

While Virginia continues vaccinating healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities, the health departments for Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield and Chickahominy will begin Phase 1B of vaccinations Monday.

Phase 1B will prioritize essential workers. The first categories of essential workers eligible under 1B are: police and fire departments, workers in corrections and homeless shelters, K-12 teachers and staff and childcare workers.

During a Wednesday press conference held virtually by the City of Richmond, Dr. Melissa Viray with the Richmond and Henrico health districts said these categories are tiered in order of how likely someone is to be exposed to COVID-19.

“We really want to make sure your public facing, your front facing, your student facing individuals are the ones we get to first,” she said. “The folks who are teleworking, the folks who are able to fully do their duties remotely, are not necessarily as high priority as those who don't have a choice.”

The list of worker categories within Phase 1B, in order of priority for getting the vaccine, is as follows:

  1.  Police, Fire, and Hazmat 
  2.  Corrections and homeless shelter workers 
  3.  Childcare/K-12 Teachers/Staff 
  4.  Food and Agriculture (including Veterinarians)
  5.  Manufacturing 
  6.  Grocery store workers
  7.  Public transit workers 
  8.  Mail carriers (USPS and private) 
  9.  Officials needed to maintain continuity of government

Phase 1B will also seek to vaccinate Virginia residents over 75 years of age, individuals held at correctional facilities and residents of homeless shelters. 

The Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield and Chickahominy health districts will hold three joint vaccinations events next week. Richmond and Henrico will have an additional four events of their own.

During the press conference, Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras said COVID-19 exposure risk will also guide vaccination priorities for school staff. He says the district will begin with bus drivers, nutrition workers and office and administrative staff working in person. Richmond schools will continue virtual classes through the school year.

Unlike Henrico and Chesterfield schools, Kamras says RPS does not plan to send a survey to teachers and staff at this time to gauge interest in the vaccine. He says the vaccine will be made available to all RPS staff. 

Kamras also mentioned that RPS has received just over $54 million from the new federal stimulus bill. While the federal government granted emergency funds to local school districts, it did not send money to local governments. This is why Kamras told reporters he will recommend to the school board next week that RPS takes on the city’s childcare costs.

The school district also plans on using the new emergency funds to cover emotional, social and academic support services and to enhance schools’ air quality systems.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said Richmond has seen 10,698 positive cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and 116 city residents have died of the disease.

“Just a reminder: If you traveled over the holidays, it is incumbent upon you to monitor yourself for any symptoms and to get tested if you develop any symptoms. You have many testing options available through the Richmond City Health District,” Stoney said.

The city will hold a free testing event at the Broad Rock Community Center from 1 to 3 p.m., and a drive-thru testing event at the Easter Henrico Health Department on Friday from 1 to 3 p.m.

VDH offers an online eligibility tool to determine if one is eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine under the current phases. 

Anyone who lives in Richmond or Henrico and thinks they may be currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine under the Phases 1A and 1B can go to vax.rchd.com to fill out an interest form.